Historians Hoping To Unearth Hobart’s Orphan Graves With Geophysical Survey

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By Lucy Shannon Sat at 3:19pm

A group of volunteer historians has enlisted technical experts to carry out a geophysical survey of a burial ground in Hobart.

Nearly two centuries ago two orphan schools at Hobart's St John's Park in New Town were home to hundreds of underprivileged children.

Most were taken from parents whom authorities deemed to be unfit guardians; convicts, the jobless and Aboriginal people.

About 400 children were buried behind the school, along with 1600 adults from the surrounding parish.

In the 1960s the headstones of more well-known names, who were also laid to rest there, were moved to Hobart's main cemetery at Cornelian Bay.

Historian Dianne Snowden suspects that while the headstones were moved, the human remains stayed on site.

Ms Snowden said Hobart surveyors had volunteered their time to conduct a geophysical survey to determine the truth.

"What we hope to do is locate the existence of human remains in this burial ground, we're not sure whether they're there or not," she said.

"It's really great to have this level of research taking place.

"You can conjecture a lot but it's good to have some scientific basis to what we think might be there.

"As a historian I like certainty and it will be good to know what we've got here."



Surveyor Hugh Tassell, who has carried out similar work at Port Arthur's Isle of the Dead, said he was pleased to be working on the project.

"It's great to be able to map out the resting place of potential people's lost relatives and orphans," he said.

"We hope to map out most of this survey area ... and then use that data to map out the location and the extent of the burial ground and hopefully identify quite a lot of the individual graves themselves."

The geophysical survey allows experts to see down to a depth of about five metres.

They hope to have the results within a week.


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